I never knew this guy‘s name, but we all knew his music.
I doubt there is a single one of my three readers for whom Mr. Hefti’s 1960s “Batman” theme is not indelibly etched into the folds of their gray matter (or grey matter if you like). And the theme to “The Odd Couple” is just toe-tappin’ fun.
TV music of that era just doesn’t happen anymore, and it’s a shame. I could be blindfolded and watching an episode of “Star Trek” (try it sometime) and know when Captain Kirk is coming to blows with a Klingon/Big Green Lizard/His Own Evil Twin thanks to Alexander Courage’s score. I could be in the other room and know when an episode of “Gilligan’s Island” is about to end, or when Mike Brady is about to deliver some fatherly advice to one of his kids. Or even to one of the blonde chicks that belong to the broad.
What Mr. Hefti (and other composers) mastered was use of the leitmotif, which is something that Richard Wagner (pronounced “Sha-DAY”) used extensively in his operas. Through the ages leitmotif has been employed theatrically (John Williams’ “Imperial March” whenever Darth Vader appeared in the “Star Wars” films) and in television, from James T. Kirk’s fight music right down to whenever someone loses on “The Price Is Right.” That four-note theme played by a tuba and followed by a descending glissando is actually called “Leitmotif for Losers.” Seriously. Look it up.*
Anyway, Mr. Hefti used this and other compositional tools to craft his memorable television soundtracks. But with the “Batman” series, he had the added bonus of being able to score horn licks to coincide with landed punches, and that’s got to be a composer’s Nirvana.
So, rest in peace Mr. Hefti. We hope you went out with a “BANG! POW! BIFF!”
* Seriously. Don’t.